Lead is a highly toxic substance which when ingested may lead to irreparable neurological damage in children (ATSDR, 1999), kidney diseases, cardiovascular problems and reproductive complications. In 2007 Lead was ranked as the second most toxic substance after Arsenic (ATSDR, 2007). The toxicology of Lead is a result of its chemical similarity with Calcium thus the human body confuses Lead for Calcium and incorporates it into the bone marrow, kidney and the brain.
Inasmuch as Lead affects adults, its effects on children can be fatal. A minimum of 10g/ml blood Lead impairs mental and physical development in children. A maximum of 80g/ml blood Lead leads to convulsions, comma and death. Lead poisoning can be detected through a number of symptoms. In children, the symptoms include abdominal pain, anaemia, vomiting, weight loss, short concentration span, hyperactivity, petulance and a slow speech development. In adults, the symptoms may include abdominal pain, memory loss, pale skin, weight loss, vomiting, petulance and anaemia.
Lead poisoning can come from a number of exposure routes. All students, faculty staff and all visitors in IUB are exposed to these routes. First, the exposure route involving Lead Based Paint (LBP) is a major source. The paints used IUB buildings may chip off due to wear and tear, moisture friction or deliberate removal during renovation. The chips contain lead and mix with the dust which can be inhaled. The chips in the soil may leech and end up in water bodies. This route is not an acute exposure route. It is only acute to children who are fond of mouthing non food objects and substances. The preventive action to avert this exposure is to use Non- Lead paints which are of the same quality and glaze just like LBP.
Industrial/ occupational Lead exposure is another possible route in that workers in a factory or laboratory that handles Lead are exposed to lead. Examples of such workers in IUB are those in pottery (Use Lead glaze), automotive repair (inhale exhaust fumes with Lead), industrial machinery and equipment, (inhale exhaust fumes with Lead) and chemistry students/laboratory technicians (analyze LBP or even handle elemental lead). Students of ceramics who use Lead glaze may inhale the Lead fumes involved in the Lead glaze. Those individuals threatened by this kind of exposure need to be careful and keen to wear protective gear such as masks to prevent the inhalation of the Lead fumes. This exposure is an acute threat because of the form and amount of Lead inhaled. The amount inhaled can be specifically high because the Lead is in gaseous form.
Dishware is another exposure route. The plates and cups made of melamine or glass with a lead glaze, used by the students and faculty at the cafeteria or any other eating place, are a real threat. This is so because acidic food (such as tomato sauce, coffee, juice etc) kept in these containers may exacerbate lead leeching which can lead to lead poisoning. Though this is not an acute threat based on the amount of lead that can possibly leech, it is important that any dishware with a lead glaze is avoided.